Children must be under 18 years old when the application is made. Once they reach the age of 18 they must apply for British citizenship as adults, either by registration where they have an entitlement, or by naturalisation. The date of application is the date it is received by the Home Office or the receiving authority;

Automatic acquisition of British citizenship

Children who have automatically acquired British citizenship do not need to be registered. There are two ways a child can automatically be a British citizen without needing to register.

British citizenship otherwise than by descent

A child born in the UK to parents one or both of whom are

  • British citizens, or
  • are settled in the UK at the time the child is born, or
  • members of the UK armed forces

is automatically a British citizen otherwise than by descent and does not need to be registered. A child born in a British overseas territory (see page 8) after 21 May 2002 will also be a British citizen if, at the time of the birth, either parent is a British citizen, or settled in the United Kingdom, or settled in that particular territory, or is a member of the UK armed forces.

A child who is adopted in the UK and one or both adoptive parents are British citizens will also automatically be a British citizen otherwise than by descent on adoption and does not need to be registered. A child adopted under the 1993 Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption may be regarded as a British citizen otherwise than by descent on production of

  • the Convention adoption certificate issued on or after 1 June 2003; and
  • evidence that, on the date of the adoption, the adopter or, in the case of a joint adoption, one of the adopters was a British citizen, and
  • evidence that, on the date of the adoption, the adopter or, in the case of a joint adoption, both of the adopters were habitually resident in the United Kingdom or in a territory designated for this purpose.

To be settled, the parent(s) must be free from immigration conditions. Children born in the UK to the following will not automatically become British citizens

  • diplomatic staff of foreign missions who have diplomatic immunity. Or
  • members of visiting forces, i.e. member of the armed forces of another country based in or visiting the UK. Or
  • in the event of war, children of an enemy alien who is part of an occupying force.
  • Parents who are/were in breach of immigration laws. This may apply to parents who are claiming asylum even if they have been given temporary 7 admission. This applies particularly where asylum seekers entered the UK clandestinely i.e. illegally.

British citizenship by descent

British citizenship may descend to one generation born abroad. So a child born abroad to a parent who is British otherwise than by descent will automatically be British by descent

The exception is

  • A child born before 1 July 2006 to a British father and non-British mother who were not married. The child will be able to apply for registration under section 4G using form UKF.

Children born to parents who are British by descent have no automatic claim to British citizenship. Applications may be made through entitlement under section 3 (2) or section 3 (5) if children satisfy the requirements for registration. Or they may apply at the Home Secretary’s discretion under section 3 (1) if there are compelling or exceptional reasons for registering a child as British. The exception to this broad rule is where a child is born abroad to one or more parents who are in Crown service or service designated for this purpose or Community institution service. In this case, the child will be a British citizen otherwise than by descent. To qualify, the parent must have been recruited in the UK and have been sent to serve abroad. Designated service is agreed by Parliament